“It’s the biggest challenge we have yet faced…everyone needs to be involved…”
Sir David Attenborough – BBC Interview, 2006
The Earth’s atmosphere acts like a ‘greenhouse’. It lets rays from the Sun through to warm the Earth, but gases such as carbon dioxide and water absorb some of the heat energy given off by the Earth as it cools down, thus trapping the heat in the atmosphere. We are lucky to have these natural ‘greenhouse gases’ as without them the Earth would be about 30°C cooler, i.e. life as we know it would not exist on Earth.
However, human activities have resulted in more and more ‘greenhouse gases’ being produced. Whenever, when fossil fuels such as gas, coal, and oil (petrol and diesel are from crude oil) are burnt, carbon dioxide is released. We are now burning fossil at an incredible rate as people consume more and more energy. This is upsetting the natural balance of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
Although plants absorb carbon dioxide, we are cutting down huge areas of forest every day. As well as being felled for timber, the trees are often just burned to clear land for farming. This makes even more carbon dioxide. More carbon dioxide, plus other ‘greenhouse gases’ such as methane from cattle, is making the Earth hotter.
More carbon dioxide in the atmosphere means hotter temperatures, resulting in climate change around the world. For the UK, climate change means hotter, drier summers (more heat waves), milder wetter winters , higher sea levels and an increased flood risk to coastal areas.
Across the globe, there will be more intense heat waves, droughts and more flooding. There may be severe problems for regions where people are particularly vulnerable to changes in the weather. Food shortages and the spread of disease are commonly predicted. The social, environmental and economic costs of climate change could be huge.
What can be done?
We can burn less fossil fuels by using energy more efficiently, which means more insulation in our homes, less wastage by turning off appliances not in use, and using our cars less. We also need to use alternative forms of energy, e.g. solar power.
The Royal Society – the UK’s national academy of science
A summary of the science of Climate Change.
Climate Change News Digest – “If you don’t get emotional about what’s happening to the earth, there’s something fundamentally wrong”
Climate Change News is an internet news portal that provides constantly updated links to the latest news on climate change.
Friends of the Earth: Climate change
Friends of the Earth.
Met Office: Climate change projections
Key results from climate-change experiments conducted using Met Office Hadley Centre computer.
The United Kingdom Environmental Change Network
The National Energy Foundation – Energy Advice – Saving Energy – Urban Myths:
Here are 10 popular hints on how to save energy – or perhaps they are misleading advice that could end up costing the earth!
The Energy Story – Introduction
Detailed guide explains what energy is and where it comes from.
Save energy – the future of the planet is in your hands – support renewables, efficiency and sustainable transport
European commission Directorate-General for energy and transport. Lots of information, activities and links.
Centre for Alternative Technology Home Page
The Centre for Alternative Technology offers solutions to some of the most serious challenges facing our planet and the human race, such as climate change, pollution and the waste of precious resources.